Sasebo-Japan—Two Olympic bombshells, Kaylin Richardson and Caroline Lalive, traded their traditional downhill speed suits for specially designed bomb blast suits when Armed Forces Entertainment HEAVY Medal III spent a few hours with members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Detachment 51 stationed at Sasebo, Japan.
Members of this highly trained ordnance team have been working across Japan and around the Pacific region, most recently helping in the northern portion of the country with relief efforts.
The mobile unit is called upon to undertake any number of operations including disarming or eliminating explosives and IEDs, monitoring radioactive isotopes or retrieving underwater armaments. They rely on the full spectrum of futuristic gizmos and gadgets that are right out of a real life laboratory that would rival James Bond’s Q.
Assisted by two sailors, both ladies started at ground level and worked their way up with Kevlar reinforced pants. On top of that went a thick section of overlapping material that protected the pelvis area. Then, a several inch thick jacket intertwined with wires connected to arm band controllers and an eight-inch high neck collar finished the velcro reinforced body protection. A 10 to 15 pound helmet with full facial blast shield topped off the roughly half-a-million-dollar ensemble.
In contrast to ballistic armors, which primarily focus on protecting the torso and head, a bomb suit must protect all parts of the body equally, since a bomb's forces can impact the entire body
“Even without the helmet, it felt like I had a whole other person hanging on me,” Richardson said from behind the clear protective face shield. “When you are totally sealed up, everything gets eerily quiet. All you hear is your breathing, the rest of the world gets shut out.”
The helmet is then connected to the jacket via a wire down the back that provides links to communications, armband controllers for remote control tracking of vehicles and other features laced throughout the protective gear.
Members of the Ordnance team train constantly to be able to get in and out of this massive collection of plates and body armor in a matter of minutes. In addition, dressing is only part of the requirements. The land base suit is just one outfit that these dive certified specialist have in their arsenal as they are often called upon to ply their skills in underwater situations.
They also have to have the physical stamina to get to the suspected device and that could mean climbing flights of stairs, walking or running hundreds of yards or climbing over obstacles in their path in scorching heat.
“This experience gave me an entirely new perspective on the adversity these men have to deal with. The closest exposure I’ve had until now with explosives was watching the movie The Hurt Locker,” continued Richardson. “There were jokes and laughs as Caroline and I were in the suits, but even amidst the giggles I was constantly reminded of the extremely intense task that these speciality troops face when in this unwieldy suit. Other than their hands, with the dexterity of the Michelin man these guys step directly into harms way to protect the lives of their fellow service members.”
Whether below the seas or on dry land, knowing members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units are on duty across the globe protecting their brother in arms couldn’t be more reassuring. Olympians Lalive and Richardson couldn’t agree more after their real-life demonstration.